Government must introduce financial incentives to attract the youth into agriculture, Government Statistician, Professor Samuel K. Annim, has said.
According to him, the youth were shying from agriculture due to difficulty in accessing capital from the financial institutions and the high cost of capital, and said there was the need “to make the agriculture sector incentivising to attract the youth.”
Professor Annim said this in an interview with the media on the sidelines of the launch of the 2017/18 Ghana Census of Agriculture National Report.
He explained that only 25 per cent of the youth within the age bracket of 15 and 35 were engaged in agriculture.
He said the latest agriculture census revealed that agriculture sector was dominated by the aged and stressed that “this does not augur well for the sector.”
“It is not encouraging to see a critical sector of the economy dominated by the aged population,” he said, indicating that the contribution of agriculture to the country’s Gross Domestic Product was dwindling.
Prof. Annim said currently, agriculture’s contribution to the country’s GDP stood at 20 per cent, which was higher in the past.
He said agriculture currently employed 36.5 per cent of the labour force in the country, unlike the 70 per cent in the past.
The Government Statistician urged banks to provide specific financial product for specific crops and long term finance for players in the agriculture sector.
“A financial product for cocoa must be different from cassava because the two crops have different maturity periods,” Prof. Annim said.
In addition, the Government Statistician called for a guarantee scheme to help farmers access capital from financial institutions and the need to “integrate insurance with agriculture investment.”
Prof. Annim further said the agriculture census found that the country’s agriculture was largely rain-fed and influenced by the vagaries of the weather.
In view of this, Prof. Annim called for more irrigation facilities to be constructed across the country to reduce the reliance on rain-fed agriculture.
He said the agriculture census identified that more than 80 per cent of players in agriculture had basic or no education and also engage in rudimentary farming.
“The country’s total area under cultivation of agricultural products has jumped from 3,587,000 in 1970 to 3,934,986 in 2018,” Prof. Annim said.
Highlighting on the importance of the 2017/18 agriculture census, the Government Statistician said it would provide baseline data for the 2024 agriculture census.
“The 2017/18 agriculture census will help us to access whether the agriculture sector is being transformed,” Prof. Annim said.
He said the next agriculture census would be conducted in 2024 after the National Population and Housing Census was conducted this year.
Prof. Annim said so far, the country had conducted four agriculture censuses with the first in 1950, second 1970, third 1984 and fourth in 2017/18.
The Chief Director of the Central Regional Coordinating Council, Kingsley Agyei Boahene who chaired the programme commended the Ghana Statistical Service for conducting the census.
He said the data from the report would help in policy planning to enhance the growth and development of the agriculture sector and implementation of government agricultural programmes such as the planting for Food and Jobs.
“The role of agriculture census for the development of the country and agriculture cannot be over emphasised,” Mr Boahene said.
The Eastern Regional Director of Agriculture, Henry Crentsil for his part said agriculture over the years had evolved and there was the need for fresh data on the sector.
For instance, he said available data which suggested that agriculture employed 70 per cent the country’s labour force had changed.
“We need current data on agriculture, and I am happy such data is coming out,” Mr Crentsil said.